Interbike 2011: Car rack round-up

Quieter and more convenient ways to tote your ride for 2012

Thule have gotten into the aero crossbar game with the introduction of their new Aeroblade design, unveiled at this month's Interbike show. This is an extruded aluminum system built with an aerodynamic cross-section.

The result is lower drag, less noise and more bending strength than traditional round or rectangular bars. Suggested retail price for the AeroBlade crossbars is US$149.95 per pair.

Thule also launched four new hitch-mounted rear carriers in Las Vegas, all using conventional twin arms to support the bikes' top tubes but in slightly arched curves that are designed to provide better spacing between up to five bikes.

The upscale Apex uses Thule's new RDT cradles with softer, ribbed materials to prevent frame damage and no-sway lower extensions to keep bikes from clanking into each other. An integrated cable lock is tucked into the top of the main mast and quick-release levers allow the arms to fold when not in use and the whole rack to tilt down to access the rear hatch. There's also a new Snug-Tight receiver design with a built-in wedge to eliminate play and an integrated locking mechanism for security.

The new Thule Apex Swing is a stout-looking hitch-mounted carrier designed for up to four bikes

The lower-priced Vertex range uses slightly harder cradle materials and eliminates the cable lock and Snug-Tight receiver design. Both Apex and Vertex are offered in 'Swing' versions with segmented bases that pivot, rather than tile, outward for tailgate access. Prices range from $239.95 to $499.95 depending on model and bike capacity. 

Finally, there's the new Thule Gate Mate – a simple padded nylon cover designed for pickup truck tailgates. As compared to just simple blankets and similar pads, the Gate Mate adds nylon webbing across the top to provide bungee cord strapping points plus 'Knock Blocks' at either end to keep bikes from sliding straight into the sides of the bed. A cutout on the exterior allows access to the tailgate handle, too. Thule will offer the Gate Mate in 54in and 62in widths, both for $99.95. /JH

The new Thule Gate Mate is a more elegant solution than moving blankets to carrying a lot of bikes in the bed of your truck

Quiet time in the house of Yakima

Yakima's biggest news is their recent acquisition of New Zealand rack company Whispbar and their trick aero-profile base bar system. As with Thule's Aeroblade, the new Whispbar aluminum crossbars are extruded in an airfoil profile that's much quieter at both high and low speeds. 

Yakima recently purchased New Zealand rack company Whispbar, gaining their clever aerodynamic crossbar and tower design in the process

While Thule use a pronounced texture on the sliding T-slot cover to help oncoming air stick to the surface, the Whispbar crossbars sport a small 'trip' at the top of the leading edge for the same effect. Where Thule's T-slot cover has to be cut to fit various accessories, Yakima's system includes a prescribed accessory track.

This means loading accessories is as simple as popping open the end and sliding things in. With the exception of the 'heavy duty' package for higher-load demands, all of the Whispbar crossbars are fitted with a compressible molded foam rubber insert in the accessory channel so there's no cutting required when adding, subtracting or moving mounts.

In addition to its aero advantages, Yakima say the modular Whispbar system is also simpler overall than their previous offerings, requiring just two boxes to outfit virtually any vehicle in multiple configurations. The ends of the Whispbar extrusions adjust in ratcheting steps to the sleek-looking towers and single bolts (accessible behind a hinged cover) tighten everything down as needed from there. Kits are available with flush or extended rails or to fit factory roof rails.

Yakima say most of their rack accessories will already fit the new Whispbar crossbars and dedicated mounts will be coming until next year for a truly integrated package. Suggested retail price for the new premium system is pegged at around $400 for a set of bars and locks.

The company also introduced their new Rocketbox Pro Series cargo boxes at Interbike, designed with new top and bottom shapes that nest within each other for shipping. This unfortunately doesn't reduce freight costs since the things are still so big but it does allow Yakima to use standard UPS and FedEx carriers in the US for more consistent tracking. 

Yakima's redesigned Rocketbox Pro Series cargo boxes feature tops and bottoms that nest inside themselves for shipping. This doesn't reduce shipping costs but it does mean they can now ship via standard UPS and FedEx carriers

The new boxes can be opened from either side, with new push-button latches that are easier to use. Yakima will offer the Rocketbox Pro Series cargo boxes in 11 ($359), 12 ($379), and 14 cubic foot ($439) sizes, with the largest one sporting additional steel reinforcements on the underside to allow for greater front overhangs and less rear hatch interference. /JH

Budget hitch rack, new roof baskets and a darn cool bike lock from Küat

For 2012 Küat offer a new 'budget' hitch rack called the NV Core. Take their original NV rack to its core – strip away the bike stand, integrated locks (hitch and bike) and four-bike capacity – and you're left with a solid two-bike rack that promises to do one core job well: carry your bikes.

Priced at $439, it fits both 1.25in and 2in hitches, and has a 120lb capacity using Küat's NV front wheel mount and mainframe. It's meant to provide the look and function of the NV without the bells and whistles. A lock package, which includes both hitch and bike locks, will sell for an additional $39.

The NV Core uses a similar frame, but without the bells and whistles of the original NV

Küat will offer two rooftop baskets for 2012 that each include two simple skewer type bike mounts. The top-of-the-line Vagabond X comes in two colors – black chrome ($429) and flat black ($399), both with real copper badges – has an aerodynamic shape and 160lb capacity. It mounts to all factory and aftermarket roof bars without the need for adaptors. The Vagabond is a toned down version of the X, with a boxier shape but the same bike and weight capacity, and costs $299.

The Dirt Bag is a $13 front quick-release skewer mount. Küat say they made it as inexpensive as possible. It's meant for the old 2x4 in the pickup truck bed or building out the inside of a team trailer or workshop.

The $34 Bottle Lock is an 8mm cable lock that winds its 5ft long cable onto the inner spool of the bottle shaped case when you twist the bottle's top; the base has a small compartment to store the key when traveling. The whole package conveniently fits into any conventional bottle cage for that quick trip to the store or coffee shop. The Bottle Lock will be available in white, black and pink bottles. /MP

The 5ft of 8mm cable unwinds with a pull and is rewound by turning the top of the bottle

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